Mar 27, 2015

Review: Neighbors (2014)

Straight-up comedies are a touchy subject for me. I don't really like to say that I'm a comedy snob though because that doesn't sit right with me. I mean, I like the odd stoner comedy now and again and you can't say that a guy who likes Pootie Tang hasn't got an open mind. I just still couldn't help but feel a bit suspicious about Neighbors though, especially with Seth "love him or hate him" Rogan on board. So you can bet that I had Houston on speed dial before I started watching this.

English/American Nicholas Stoller directed Neighbors and I've actually seen all of his movies besides his forgotten TV movie Entry Level. His directorial debut Forgetting Sarah Marshall was his best for sure. Also, if you don't hate Russell Brand (like me) then Get Him to the Greek is pretty fun and The Five-Year Engagement was quite good too, if a bit long. He's also written the screenplays of quite a few other movies that I liked, so Neighbors can't be all that bad right? Maybe I wouldn't have to make that call after all then...

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Genre: comedy
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Produced by: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver, etc.
Written by: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O'Brien
Music by: Michael Andrews
Running time: 97 minutes
Production company: Good Universe, Point Grey Pictures
Distributed by: Universal Pictures, United International Pictures, KVH Media Group, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $18,000,000
Box office: $268,157,400 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Lisa Kudrow, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Craig Roberts, Hannibal Buress, Halston Sage, Jerrod Carmichael, Ali Cobrin, Jason Mantzoukas, Elise Vargas, Zoey Vargas, Brian Huskey

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Synopsis


Mac (Seth Rogan) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are a young couple adapting to their new lives as parents. They live in a quiet neighbourhood which suddenly doesn't look so quiet when the Delta Psi Beta fraternity move in next door to them. Mac and Kelly decide to approach frat leaders Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and Pete Regazolli (Dave Franco) in a cool, but authoritative way to preserve the peace and tranquility of the street. Of course, things don't quite go according to plan.

Review


Neighbors is rated R and I can't deny that Nicholas Stoller uses that boundary to full effect. From a subtlety point of view though, Neighbors is like a mascot at a black tie event. Did writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien think that the R in rated R stands for raunchy or something? Because it seems like they were trying to outdo every other R-rated comedy in recent years. As a result this feels like an exercise in pushing boundaries instead of making a legit comedy.

That's not to say that Neighbors is devoid of any laughs. That's not true at all and I actually ended up laughing pretty hard during certain scenes even when I thought I should probably know better. The bottom line is, some scenes are intelligently funny, others are stupidly funny while others just feel like they're supposed to be funny in an R-rated kind of way. While I laughed at some of the smarter stuff and even some of the stupid stuff, I still couldn't get past what seemed to be a shock-and-awe agenda to be as inappropriate and immature as possible for most of the comedy.

Now to address the Seth Rogan question, he's certainly not as annoying as I've known him to be in the past. His "Rogan-ness" rears its head up a couple times, but I'm happy to say that he keeps his head above water overall. Obviously liking or disliking Seth Rogan is all a matter of opinion, I think he's quite funny all on his own in certain scenes. He also makes a great contrast opposite Zac Efron.

Speaking of which, Efron is probably my favourite thing about Neighbors. There's no question that he's shed his reputation as a High School Musical alumni and a role like this just solidifies that. He's in scary good shape just as his comedic chops are. His character has a bromance going on with Dave Franco's character that is relatively well executed and makes for some pretty good laughs as well.

I wasn't all that impressed with Rose Byrne though who seems to be a bit of an afterthought. Neighbors was initially going to be Rogan vs. the next door frat before the story was changed to make it more about Rogan and his wife vs. the next door frat. Byrne's character is pretty involved with the story sure, but most of her material fails to funny. Who's most wasted of all though is Christopher Mintz-Plasse. After pretty much stealing all of Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, what on earth was he doing here? 

As a production, Neighbors looks pretty impressive with many a crazy party scene. Really though, the lighting and decor for these parties probably took up the majority of the scant $18 million budget. With some sick tunes, these party scenes are definitely one of the strengths of this film that looks very much the part of a frat party movie.

My big problem with Neighbors still stands though. It tries so desperately to be the most R of all R-rated comedies and as a result mostly fails in its main mission: be funny. For all the genuine laughs that Neighbors conjures up, it hits a whole bunch of eyebrow-raising bricks walls. All I can say is that I hope Neighbors 2 dials down the edginess and lewdness. With $268,157,400 at the worldwide box office though, I think we can expect even more.

Rating


5.5/10